People, Place and Policy 14(1) pp 6-23

The devolution of power and responsibility from central to sub national levels of governance over the past half century marks a paradigm shift in forces shaping social policy across much of Western Europe. Scholarship in this field is often concerned with a binary analysis of before and after the advent of devolution, with insufficient attention paid to transitory changes over time. Through attention to Wales’ flagship community regeneration programme, Communities First, a striking instance of divergent devolved social policy, we highlight the need to attend to the dynamics of devolution across time. Drawing on empirical data charting the programme’s conception, implementation, evolution, distortion and eventual demise, we argue that a moment of alignment between ideology and policy design was visible at conception but eroded over 16 years, as the programme increasingly came to bear the hallmarks of neoliberalism. Using this
case study, we consider the extent to which newly devolved states can implement ideological policy visions that resist the restraints put upon sub-state governance on the one hand and forces of central state ideologies and logics on the other.